CINE LENS ULTIMATE GUIDE

By Scott Thompson

Table of Contents

CINE LENS ULTIMATE GUIDE

Whether you have just started your photography journey , or you have years of experience,

At some point along the way, you’ll become obsessed over Lenses.

They will change the way you look at the world….

Literally.

There’s so many options and things to understand. It can be a lot of information taking years to comprehend.

And once you think you’ve learned it all……

That Is when the Cinema Lens category emerges. Back to being confused….

Upon first glance they look like something out of a NASA telescope. Wide casing with multiple gear rings rotating around the body. 

You see them in the Hollywood BTS pics and they look so impressive sitting in these elaborate camera rigs.

But what is so special about Cine Lenses? How do they differ from my current lineup of photography Lenses?

Today we will answer all those questions and more.

In this article we will be looking at the differences and similarities between cinema (aka cine) lenses and regular lenses. 

After you read this you should have a general idea of what each does , and what situations are best for each. 

Click below to jump ahead to specific topics.

WHAT IS A CINEMA LENS?

A CINE LENS is a finely tuned lens specially designed for use in high quality VIDEO. When your recording video, the slightest abrupt movement can mess up your shot. These specialty lenses are designed with all components to move super smooth & insure those small errors don’t happen. On Production sets like commercials or movies , every second is critical. When every shot needs to be smooth and professional , you need a cine lens

IN DEPTH FEATURES AND BENEFITS OF A CINE LENS

  • SIZE AND DESIGN

Most CIne Lenses in a set are made in the same size. The purpose of this is to save time.

ZIESS LENS CINE KIT SHOWING SIMILAIR SIZE DESIGN

Many times videographers / Filmmakers will use different focal lengths during a scene. 

When you have to reset up your whole rig to accommodate a lens, 

it slows you down. 

With each lens being the same size,  you can easily change lenses and not have to move other components of your video rig to fit the updated lens ( Matte Box , focus wheel ) . 

This saves serious time. It’s a benefit when using larger built up rIg setups. When on a set ….time is money.

CIne Lenses typically have the same size hood diameter that help fit the matte box diameter.

  • GEAR RINGS

Just like the advantage of the size of the lens being the same , the same goes for the ring locations.

All rings in a set are generally in the same cohesive position. This way when you’re using a rig with a focus wheel, all will be in the same place and you can easily begin shooting.  

Even the rotation amount is the same for focus and aperture pulls. 

The rings are also beefier and have gear like design to attach focus pulling attachments.

This all caters to creating super smooth adjustments.

  • FULL MANUAL ADJUSTMENTS

Manual focusing is still the number one technique used in feature films and commercials. 

CINE LENSES are fully manual. You can adjust the focus , aperture , and zoom adjustments on manual rings. This provides a more precise focus mechanism. 

No dreaded clicking sound when adjusting the settings . Smooth as butter.

  • DE CLICKED APERTURE

On a CIne Lens you have full control over aperture manually. This lets you have incredibly smooth control over the field of view and light control without hard stops like on a consumer camera lens.

A scene moving from a dark indoor room to a bright outdoor scene can be achieved only with smooth control of the aperture.

  • HIGH BUILD QUALITY

Since Cine Lenses are fine tuned for video, smooth manual adjusting is critical. The material to make a CIne Lens is usually heavy duty , and each gear and knob more advanced for precise adjustments while filming.

  • MORE EXPENSIVE

Cine Lens are made with more expensive materials and more attention to detail. The gears and mechanical elements inside are much more advanced therefore Cine Lenses are much more expensive.

  • APERTURE MEASURED IN T STOPS

Cine Lenses Measure the Aperture in T stops which is a much more precise measurement of the light that hits the sensor. This is helpful because when you change Lenses if you T Value is the same the shot will have similar exposure. The T value remains constant even between different lenses

  • ACCURATE MARKINGS

Each cine lens has very detailed and accurate markings on each Lens. Many times a second camera operator will pull focus and this accurate value is placed on the side to help ensure correct focus is pulled. 

There are even glowing markers on many high end cine lenses. 

Now lets compare the features of a regular photography lens and highlight the differences.

WHAT IS A “REGULAR” PHOTO LENS?

A regular Lens (non cine Lens) is a lens geared mostly for PHOTOGRAPHY OR HYBRID SHOOTING . Although you can use these lenses to shoot video, they will not produce the same fine tuned result. Most of the ergonomics of consumer and professional lenses cater to the features of photographers or hybrid shooters.

FEATURES OF A REGULAR LENS

  • SIZE AND DESIGN 

Most regular Lenses come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are smaller and more compact , others are large and bulky. There are hundreds of different features and functions that cater to a wide range of applications. If you change a lens you may need to completely re-adjust other settings on your camera body to continue to operate.

  • AUTO & MANUAL ADJUSTMENTS

Consumer Lenses can be set to auto functions. This is helpful if you don’t want to worry about some basic settings . The downside to autofocus is that you are not in control.

There are many situations where autofocus is a great feature.

  • APERTURE MEASURE IN F STOP

The F stop measurement is a less accurate measurement of actual light hitting the sensor. If you change lenses with the same F stop reading you may see slight differences. This measurement is not as accurate as T stop measurements. 

  • EMPHASIS ON PHOTOGRAPHY

Many of the elements on your standard Lens favor photography. When Pulling Focus your ring may get stuck or skip. If you’re taking a picture this is never a big deal. 

When adjusting Aperture you will see steps as values change.

MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CINE AND REGULAR LENSES?

We have looked at the features and benefits of Cine Lenses and Regular Photo Lenses. Let’s compare and contrast the two in a side by side comparison.

Many Lens Manufacturers will create the same lens in a regular and cine version. If we look at these “same” lenses we can really notice the difference in each. In the below video we take a look at the popular SIGMA 18-35 Lens in CINE and REGULAR version. You can see that image quality is basically the same but adjusting the lens is much easier on the CINE.

As you can see the price drastically increases on the CINE version.

  • DIFFERENCES IN DESIGN – SIZE AND ERGONOMICS 

Cine Lenses are designed to fit the same on a rig. They usually have the same size hood measurement to fit the matte box. All cine lenses usually have 2- 3 rings and contain the same markings in the same location for cohesive process on set. 

Regular lenses have many various shapes, sizes and functions. More Variation in design then Cine Lenses.

  • DIFFERENCES IN FOCUS  

Cine Lenses are fully manual and regular lenses have auto manual options. Focus and other rings have geared teeth in CIne vs rubber grip for regular lenses. Cine lenses have more advanced focus wheel systems for more sensitive control.

  • APERTURE

Cine Lenses are fully manual and regular lenses have auto manual options. Focus and other rings have geared teeth in CIne vs rubber grip for regular lenses. Cine lenses have more advanced focus wheel systems for more sensitive control. Aperture is also different in measurement. Regular Lenses mark settings by F stop, Cine lenses measure in T stop. F and T stops have slightly different values.

  • EASE OF USE

Although you can shoot video with a Regular Lens and take pictures with a CIne Lens, They are best used for their intended purpose.

CINE lens are best for video . Regular Lenses best for Photography.

MAIN SIMILARITIES BETWEEN CINE AND REGULAR LENSES?

  • IMAGE QUALITY

For many cine vs regular lenses the image quality is very similiar. Cine Lenses have a slight advantage due to highly incredibly high build quality. 

Example:

When we compared two of the same lenses in regular and cine versions like the SIGMA 18-35 . The image was very close to the same.

As a rule of thumb the more expensive a lens is ,  the higher quality the construction and better internal components ( like the glass). You do get what you 

ULTRA HIGH END FEATURES

Since CIne Lenses are more expensive and offer more advanced video features. We wanted to highlight a few more awesome features found on high end Cinema Lenses.

  • Anamorphic Lens – The Anamorphic Flares and characteristics look best on high end Cine Lenses
  • Parfocal Lenses – Lenses when zoom changes the focal point stays on the same subject. (This requires more advanced internal lens mechanics)
  • No Focus Breathing – Many high end Cine Lenses will not create focus breathing effects. It takes many internal elements to create this simple yet smooth focus transition.

CONCLUSION

If you are shooting a serious video or film where you need full control of all settings, Cine Lenses are your answer. 

It really makes a difference on the professional level. 

If you are an independent filmmaker trying to run as lean as possible, you can still use a regular lens . 

Just be aware that getting smooth cinematic movements are hard to achieve without the advanced settings available with cine lenses.

Q and A

Why are CIne lenses so big?

Cine Lenses are larger in size to fit the camera rig. Many are the same size for easy lens changing during a shoot. 

Imagine your shooting a scene and you want to quickly change your focal length. If the lens is a different size, you will have to change all other parts of the rig before you can begin.

Are cine lenses good for Photography?

You can use them for photography , however what you are paying for is the smooth manual controls best used during video.

Why are cine lenses so expensive?

Cine Lenses are made of high quality materials and internal components for the purpose of super smooth adjustments . This takes more time and resources to craft the product.

Why use cine lens?

We recommend using a cine lens when you are attempting to create professional video movements.

What makes a cine lens?

A cine lens has special adjustments specific to video.

Common misconceptions about cine lenses

SHOP CINEMA LENSES

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